‘Apple’ falling closer to the tree

Mar 15, 2005 6:07 AM

I don’t keep an exact count, but I believe that this article is my one-hundredth gaming article. It seems like a lot.

I’ve been writing for about a year and a half now. Then, I remember that my dad, Lenny Frome, wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,000 articles. I know how the young baseball player feels when he hits his one-hundredth homerun. It’s quite an accomplishment, but it’s a long way from the record. In the back of my head, I hear a sportscaster saying "At this pace, he’ll pass his father in a mere”¦ 10 years or so!"

Just like in sports, where the younger player has the advantage, I do too. Today, there are dozens of gaming magazines all over the country. Even some regular newspapers have gaming columns. It wasn’t always this way. A couple of weeks ago, I came across my dad’s 101st article he ever wrote. He reminisced about his first column, which was one of the first, if not THE first column written about video poker in a gaming magazine.

Lenny Frome was not just another video poker author. He was THE video poker author. He may not have invented video poker, but without him, it may not have survived, and certainly not thrived the way it has. But, Lenny Frome was about more than just video poker. He was a major force behind most of the newer table games found in a casino today.

Today, we take for granted the myriad of computer programs and books on video poker. Two decades ago, this wasn’t the case. Back then, my father saw the same video poker paytable in two different casinos announcing two different paybacks, and it just didn’t seem right to him. So, he sat down and began programming video poker on his Atari 520 ST computer.

My father was not a trained programmer, and he’d be the first to admit it. His code was ugly, but effective, and expert strategy was born. First he created 50+ Tips for Video Poker and sold it at the Gambler’s Book Club in Las Vegas.

GBC’s Howard Schwartz suggested a full book on the subject and a year later came Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and not long after that, Expert Video Poker for Atlantic City. He started writing for a gaming magazine, and little by little he began writing for more magazines. He was called the godfather of video poker, although he always preferred being called the guru of video poker.

Lenny Frome’s expertise went way beyond video poker. Inventors began coming to him to look at new table games and help with the mathematical analysis.

Of the new games that are out there (those invented prior to his passing), my dad worked on most of them. He worked with Derek Webb on Three Card Poker. He worked with Shuffle Master on Let It Ride. He worked with DP Stud on Caribbean Stud Poker.

All in all, he worked on hundreds of new game ideas. Most never made it to the casinos. Some got short trials, and a few like the ones mentioned above became blockbusters. If novice inventors came to the Nevada Gaming Commission with a gaming idea but lacked the required mathematical analysis, members of the Commission would suggest that they call Lenny Frome to do the work.

My father quickly developed a reputation for being fair and honest. If he received any criticism, it was that, on occasion, he would do TOO much for his fee, frequently helping an inventor actually develop the game instead of just doing the math. It was this attitude that gave him another of his nicknames and the ID he would use for his e-mail, "playerspal."

The irony was that my dad wasn’t that big of a gambler himself. He would occasionally play some blackjack or video poker. For the most part, though, gambling was a spectator sport for him. What really got him going was the math behind it all. He had no patience for regular slot machines. There was no advantage that could be calculated on a slot machine, just luck. I suppose that’s why he essentially made it his crusade to get people to "kick the slot habit" and to have video poker declared "America’s National Game of Chance."

The day this article we be printed will mark exactly seven years since my father passed away. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. In some respects, it’s even harder because I’ve chosen to follow in his footsteps, and there are constant reminders of him in all the work that I do.

Quite frankly, many of my friends think I’m crazy for leaving a successful career in corporate America to do what I do. But, I am my father’s son, and I know the excitement he felt every time he saw a new game in the casino or an inventor brought a new game idea to him, because I feel it too. I loved my job in corporate. I love my job even more now.

I’m just at the beginning, and there’s so much to accomplish; so many articles to write, so many new games to analyze, so many games to help invent. I think I’ll end this article now, and start working on article No. 101. Don’t worry, dad. I’m still working on getting people to kick the slot habit and have video poker become America’s national game of chance. Wish you were here to help.